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    Monday, 07 June 2010

    Also sad about the Poulsbong^H^H

    Apropos Matthew's post...

    I picked up a cheap netbook for Jo a couple of months ago, an Acer Aspire One 751. She liked the look and feel of the machine, and it was much smaller and more carryable than the massive old Dell "slab" she'd been using previously. Got a very good deal on it too, as it was the last one in stock at the local Comet store.

    All went well until we got it home and I started playing with it. That was when I found the painful truth: it was based on the Poulsbo, using Intel's crippled GMA500 graphics chipset. Up until then, I'd been very happy with buying Intel kit: for the last few years it's been a sure sign that the hardware would work well with Debian and Linux. Now they've come out with a crappy product that has destroyed that goodwill. I spent many hours working through various options to try and get this new netbook up and running properly using Debian, but to no avail - the various binary blobs wanted newer versions of code than was in Lenny and (by then) older stuff than was available in Squeeze. In the end I gave up and installed an outdated version of Ubuntu on the machine just so Jo could have it working for her when we went on holiday together.

    Since then, she's had to get used to the machine locking up once or twice a day while she's using it (something I can only assume is caused by the shitty drivers). She's happy enough in that it's much better than her old Vista-infested Dell machine, but it's really not a great experience for her compared to the Thinkpads she sees others using reliably and flawlessly at home.

    At some point I guess we'll simply ditch the machine altogether and get something less nasty. Thanks for the good stuff you used to make, Intel, but you've lost your way. I'll be damned careful next time to avoid this trap.

    18:33 :: # :: /debian/misc :: 10 comments


    Re: Also sad about the Poulsbong^H^H
    Ben Armstrong wrote on Mon, 07 Jun 2010 19:21

    Is the vesa driver not an option for you? It might be less painful to live with slower graphics performance as a tradeoff for greater stability.

    The Debian Eee PC team warns users away from Poulsbo models, but for those unlucky enough to have one, we've collected some notes here:

      Re: Re: Also sad about the Poulsbong^H^H
      Steve wrote on Tue, 08 Jun 2010 13:34

      The VESA driver doesn't support the native 1366x768 resolution of the widescreen panel, so it looks nasty. I'd be prepared to live with it otherwise... :-(

        Re: Re: Re: Also sad about the Poulsbong^H^H
        Ben Armstrong wrote on Tue, 08 Jun 2010 19:40

        Hence my pointer to our wiki page which appears to have a tip to get vesa working with native resolution.

          Re: Re: Re: Re: Also sad about the Poulsbong^H^H
          Steve wrote on Wed, 09 Jun 2010 13:10

          Oops, didn't see that bit. Thanks, I'll take a look at that too. :-)

    Re: Also sad about the Poulsbong^H^H
    Tommi Komulainen wrote on Tue, 08 Jun 2010 08:46

    FWIW we experienced somewhat regular lockups on litl webbooks (also running Z520 and Poulsbo) - it turned out there's a bug in Atom causing the kernel that's expecting sane hardware to hang. I don't know the details, but we got BIOS update to fix the lockups, maybe there's one for Acer too.

      Re: Re: Also sad about the Poulsbong^H^H
      Steve wrote on Tue, 08 Jun 2010 13:35

      Thanks, I'll look for an update tonight.

    Re: Also sad about the Poulsbong^H^H
    Adam wrote on Tue, 08 Jun 2010 13:09

    I was unfortunate enough to buy that Acer model too.

    I got it working with the Debian unstable that was current at the time, by grabbing the Ubuntu-packages and mauling them until they worked:


    (Now I can't upgrade X, of course...)

    I don't experience any lockups. Besides the graphics chip I quite like the little machine.

    Re using the VESA driver: it is unbearably and unusably slow, the Poulsbo driver is mostly acceptable, speedwise.

      Re: Re: Also sad about the Poulsbong^H^H
      Steve wrote on Tue, 08 Jun 2010 13:41

      I also didn't want to stay stuck with an old version of X and unable to upgrade anything. I followed other people's guides on how to rebuild the Jaunty Poulsbo drivers for Squeeze (including patching the Intel kernel module code to work with kernel 2.6.32) but didn't get anything to work due to version mismatches in X itself.

    Re: Also sad about the Poulsbong^H^H
    jeremiah wrote on Tue, 08 Jun 2010 14:16

    If it is any consolation, when I speak with people at Intel and mention the GMA 500 they always cringe. They are not too fond of that whole episode either. I think Intel is trying to be a better community member, MeeGo looks to be pretty open and a lot of the code they are releasing is GPL'd.

      Re: Re: Also sad about the Poulsbong^H^H
      Steve wrote on Tue, 08 Jun 2010 14:33

      Meh, one of the reasons I left my last job was because of a horrendous experience of trying to work with Intel. We were trying to make an Atom/MeeGo-based set top box and despite being a commercial partner of Intel it took weeks to get any useful code from them to make the hardware work. It was yet another broken-by-design Atom that depended on proprietary binary-only drivers. :-(

      There are clearly clueful people at Intel who are doing the Right Thing, but there seem to be just as many who don't care about Free and Open stuff.


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